Recovering from Penguin and a Lengthy Hiatus

Hello, friends! Nearly three years have passed since this blog was hacked. The security vulnerability was exploited because I failed to update to the most recent stable release of WordPress in a timely fashion. I was so discouraged that I didn’t even try restoring this blog… Until now. A project on which I am working was impacted heavily by Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0, and Penguin 3.0. While identifying inbound links to disavow, we found myriad links from what appeared to be hacked WordPress blogs. That was the moment at which my anger level peaked while thinking back to someone hacking my personal blog for the purposes of using it to spam the world.

I have been neither promoter nor practitioner of blackhat SEO practices. As such, I have never had to scramble to recover from algorithmic penalties. Working through an action plan for recovery made me realize I have been doing it wrong all along. Similar to most things in real life, SEO hats should not be viewed as black or white. I made a conscious effort to avoid even learning about the blackhat side. That was a huge miscalculation. Strange as it may sound, I have a newfound respect for blackhat SEOs. I can now easily argue that blackhats have a deeper understanding of the blackbox ranking algorithms than their contemporary whitehats.

At the risk of generalizing, whitehats do what they’re directed to do. Blackhats reverse engineer the complex ranking algos to find exploits and then do what they think will produce the most immediate results. I am diametrically opposed to questionable tactics for the purposes of short-term organic growth, but I still am able to respect the unique capabilities of blackhats. There exists at least one commonality between blackhats and whitehats – The test and learn approach. Test and learn is foundational to so many professional disciplines. </soliloquy>

(pops a Ritalin…) ohai back to the WordPress hacking. During our toxic backlink analysis, we noticed a pattern of random TLDs with /wp-admin/includes/XYZ/*. They all resolved to the same payday loans site with some tricky behind the scenes routing. This particular client may or may not have engaged in questionable link building techniques, but disavowing these toxic links has resulted in 50% recovery from Google organic traffic declines which first appeared two weeks ago. Good progress, but we’re only halfway there.

I know what you’re thinking. The recent algorithm updates have made it even easier to conjure negative SEO campaigns against your competitors. You know what I think about that hypothesis? I think it’s an excellent topic for my next post…

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